A frequent challenge I’ve come across when talking about the future for games like Heavy Rain is the search for a common language. In my opinion, “Interactive drama” doesn’t describe the basic principles behind this new genre of game. These games rely on empathy with their characters/creatures/objects to create a compelling, dramatic and emotional world, and are willing to give it as much attention as the gaming element.
So instead, I have been using the term “Empathy Game”, as this can cope with a wider range of games that share this common aim and also avoids association with that albatross description, “interactive movies”.
The fact is, we’re on the edge of a whole new world of games, and the language should be there to support it.
So now I can ask the question: What is the future of the Empathy Games?
Well I’m predicting episodic downloadable games, where each month and eventually each week you’ll get your installment of the equivalent of Star Trek, or 24, or Lost, or Milo & Kate 2, – where you get to be the main characters. 1 hour of preserved time, rather than 35 hours of commitment-busting obsession. I also see more room for psychological gaming, where your choices are based on your judgements of other character’s subtle behaviour, whilst the characters judge you, and behave accordingly. The alliances and enemies you make could be pivotal in the endgame. These games would then form the foundations, and use much of the same data, for a more traditional TV series, a film and so on… What about comedy? How would that work?
So I’m putting it out there. This isn’t an invitation for game pitches, more a question of taste: If you’re the kind of person that likes these sort of games, what/how/why do you want to play?